February 22, 1974 – The Day Ocean Beach Lost Its Innocence

by on February 22, 2021 · 2 comments

in History, Ocean Beach

February 22, 1974 was the day Ocean Beach lost its innocence. It was the day a man – recently released from prison – who was associated with the then network of OB radicals, tried to commit what we today call “suicide by cop.”

Peter Mahone walked up to a San Diego Police officer sitting in his patrol car in the OB Pier parking lot – and pulled out a gun and shot him. Mahone then calmly walked back to his little shack on Abbott and waited for the fusillade.

And it came with a vengeance. Police surrounded Peter’s little hole in the wall and poured lead into it.

Miraculously, no one died that day. The officer shot in the parking lot survived – as did Peter Mahone.

But the little, hippie village lost its innocence.

In response, OB became a locked-down war zone as police officers swarmed the neighborhood and made several arrests, besides Mahone.

Now perhaps old-timers could name a different day when the village changed.

Maybe all those police sweeps of the beach in the late 1960s, like on Easter ’68, or maybe the Labor Day ’68 crack down by police on Long Branch; or maybe the OB Jetty battle in the summer of 1970; or perhaps it was the day of the Collier Park Riot, March 28, 1971; or the July 4th marshmallow fight that tipped the tide of the community against the tradition.

But Feb. 22, 1974 – 47 years ago – stands out as the day that awakened the community – including the radicals – to an ugly, underside of dissent. Peter had been radicalized in prison and upon his release, was “adopted” by some in the network of radicals – a mixture of anti-war militants, neighborhood radicals, anarchists, feminists, socialists and hippie counter-culture warriors.

These were the folks who had founded and worked on the OB Rag, who began the People’s Food Co-op, the OB Free School, the OB Community Planning Group – the forerunner to the OB Planning Board, the Left Bank and so on ….

At some point, Peter lost his way. From a constant threat of police harassment and his use of heavy drugs, he wore out his welcome with most in the progressive networks. And apparently, while living alone, he became suicidal. Then February 22nd came along.

The best thing that came of that day – was the creation of a group that worked to enact reforms from the San Diego Police Department. The OB Human Rights Committee – in league with groups from across the city – helped to push the SDPD into halting their use of “F.I.’s” – field interrogations, unconstitutional stops of persons on the street, forcing them to produce identification and subject to search. FI’s back then were usually reserved for Chicanos, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans and hippie young people.

For more on this tragic day and on police reforms, and OB vs SDPD:

My post from 2016, a repost of the original from 2009;


Ocean Beach in the 1970s – How an armed police camp led to reforms in police practices

Ocean Beach and the Police in the mid-1970s: demand grows for that strange and foreign concept of civilian review

OB vs. Police in the 1970s



{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Burns February 23, 2021 at 8:41 am

Whatever became of Peter? He was gone by the time I arrived in 1976.


Frank Gormlie February 23, 2021 at 9:37 am

Robert – Peter Mahone went back to prison, of course; did his time and got out and lived in the Bay Area. He passed away peacefully sometime in the 1980s I believe.


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